Prime Minister Narendra Modi released the cheetahs brought from Namibia in Africa at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh on Saturday, on his birthday.
“It is unfortunate that we declared cheetah extinct in 1952, but for decades no constructive efforts were made to reintroduce them. This is a historic moment. Cheetahs will make us more environmentally conscious. They are our guests, we must let them make Kuno their home,” Modi said in a speech.
“Following international guidelines, India is trying its best to settle these cheetahs. We must not let our efforts fail,” the PM added.
The big cats which were declared extinct from India in 1952 returned to India after 70 years. Eight cheetahs – five females and three males – were brought to MP from Namibia, on Saturday morning as part of ‘Project Cheetah’, the world’s first inter-continental large wild carnivore translocation project.
A modified Boeing aircraft had taken off on Friday, carrying the cheetahs in special wooden crates, undertaking a around 10-hour long journey. The plan landed in Gwalior shortly before 8 AM, an official said. Civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia was present at the Gwalior air base.
Meanwhile, PM Modi landed at the Indian Air Force Station in Madhya Pradesh’s Gwalior, and was welcomed by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, state home minister Narottam Mishra, among others.
After releasing the cheetahs, he will attend a program of Self Help Groups in Sheopur district.
Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), an international not-for-profit organisation headquartered in Namibia and dedicated to saving the cheetah in the wild, said the female cheetahs are aged between two years and five years and the male cheetahs are aged between 4.5 years and 5.5 years.
The felines were earlier brought to Gwalior, and from there, two Indian Air Force choppers carried them to the Kuno National Park.
The KNP is situated on the northern side of Vidhyachal mountains with an area of 344.686 sq km. The last cheetah of the country died in 1947 in Korea district which is now in Chhattisgarh, and the species was declared extinct in 1952.
The carnivorous animal was completely wiped out from India, mainly due to their use for coursing, sport hunting, over-hunting and habitat loss.
Attempts to bring cheetahs to the country were revived in 2009. Ten sites were surveyed between 2010 and 2012. The KNP was considered ready for the cheetah habitat, as a lot of investment was only done. India signed a pact with Namibia in July for the re-introduction of cheetahs.